An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Federal Government.
The Arroyo Seco AVA encompasses portions of two towns; Soledad and Greenfield in California's Monterey County. In the rural, western extremes of these townships the Santa Lucia Mountains rise dramatically, creating the western boundary of the Salinas Valley, and provide the unique setting for one of California's earliest recognized viticultural area. It is in this landscape that a transverse waterway from the mountains carved the distinct geography and geology, and ultimately converges with the maritime influences of the deep, cold waters of the Pacific Ocean found 40 miles north at Monterey Bay. Ultimately, the confluences of so many distinct geographic factors unite to form this small, finite growing region.
Granted federal AVA status on April 15, 1983, the Arroyo Seco appellation is steeped in winegrowing history and rooted in the geographic features of a waterway named "Arroyo Seco". This seasonal creek brings rain water and snowmelt from the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Los Padres National Forrest to the Salinas Valley. Over the millenniums the pressure of this natural water-release created a diverse geography; carving landscape, dumping rocks and filling a deep subteranian aquifer with clean, pure water. Ultimately, the esteemed authors of the appellation cited the unique terrain formed by the Arroyo Seco as the foundation of AVA's boundaries. Within the AVA's boundaries the first commercial vineyard, Mission Ranch, was propogated by the Mirassou family in 1961, over two decades before the region received its AVA status.
Consisting of 18,240 acres the Arroyo Seco AVA is one of the smallest AVAs in California (by contrast the largest California AVA is 3,008,000 acres, while other coastal appellations dwarf the Arroyo Seco AVA; the Santa Cruz Mountains is 408,000 acres, the Russian River Valley is 96,000 acres, the Santa Maria Valley is over 80,000 acres, the Sta Rita Hills AVA is 30,720 acres, and the Santa Lucia Highlands is 22,000 acres). It is a finite piece of terrain that has always been considered, by virtue of the definition of an AVA, one of most the "distinguished" places to grow grapes in Califorina. In fact, of the over 100 California AVAs the Arroyo Seco was one of the earliest to be recognized - the 15th AVA (tied for no. 15 with two other AVAs) to be granted such distinction.